England International speedway star Edward Kennett made his first visit to Inland Motorcycle Speedway in San Bernardino a memorable one by winning the First Division Main Event on the opening meeting of the IMS Winter Speedway Series.
Former British Speedway Grand Prix winner Martin Dugard, also making his first appearance at IMS, had first choice of starting position and picked gate two. 1996 World Speedway Champion Billy "The Bullet" Hamill was next and selected gate one. Kennett had third choice and decided on gate five. Shawn "Mad Dog" McConnell chose gate three which left Neil Facchini with gate four.
Billy Hamill made the best start from gate one and hugged the inside line through turns one and two. Kennett wasn't far behind and immediately went to the ample supply of dirt on the outside. Kennett found so much traction exiting turn two that his bike lifted slightly, snapped his back a bit, and propelled him past Billy Hamill for the lead on the back straight. Kennett maintained his outside line through turns three and four while Billy Hamill remained on the low line. Kennett's path proved superior and he finished lap one with a clear advantage. Billy Hamill switched his attack to the outside line but couldn't gain any ground on the former British Under 21 Champion throughout the race. Kennett was first to the checkered flag after four of the fast laps ever turned at IMS, Billy Hamill settled for second, McConnell was third, Facchini finished fourth, and Martin Dugard was fifth after falling on the second lap.
Billy Hamill opened the day with a victory after a hard-fought battle with Martin Dugard. Kennett, who competes for the Coventry Bees in the British Elite League, wasted little time adapting to the track and blazed to victory over Tim Gomez.
Martin Dugard, himself a former British Under 21 Champion and Overseas Champion as well, had a good scrap with McConnell in round two, with both riders even bumping on the back straight, before Martin Dugard surged ahead for the win. Billy Hamill trapped Kennett from the outside to take the lead in event 10 but Kennett fiercely attacked the leader and was attempting a cutback move at the end of the second lap when he lost a chain and coasted to a stop while Billy Hamill raced away with his second straight win.
Gomez and McConnell battled for the lead on the first lap of event 18 before Kennett joined the fight as the trio raced three-wide through turns one and two. Kennett swept around the outside of the two Americans to take the lead in spectacular fashion and pulled away for the victory. Martin Dugard, a long-time member of the Eastbourne Eagles in the British Elite League, avenged his earlier defeat to Billy Hamill by turning the tables and getting the victory in event 19.
Gomez made the best start in the first semi and was leading McConnell and Martin Dugard for three laps before he slid off entering turn one the final time and brought out the red flag. McConnell was awarded the victory with Martin Dugard getting second and the other transfer to the main. Kennett was lightning-fast from the tapes in the second semi and led Billy Hamill the entire way with both riders progressing to the main. Facchini was victorious over Gomez in the Last Chance to fill the final spot in the main event field.
Joe Donaldson put together four smooth laps and was victorious in the Second Division Main Event. Joey St. Louis finished second, Brad Moreau was third, Kevin Fife finished fourth, and Stu Egli was fifth.
Carl Shockley was the initial leader of the Third Division Main Event but was under heavy pressure from Conner Dugard, Martin's son, at the end of lap one. Conner Dugard, who started from the 20 yard line, demonstrated patience before diving underneath Shockley entering turn three the second time. Dugard, who won all of his heats and improved greatly throughout the day, lengthened his lead with each lap and crossed the finish line first. Shockely held on to second, C.J. Sanborn was third, Steve "Beach Ball" Brown finished fourth, Ryan Gushua was fifth, and Kayle LeoGrande was credited with sixth.
The Youth 250cc Main Event featured a triumvirate of Hagon Shocks youngsters with a bright future in speedway. Broc Nicol earned the victory after holding off the persistent challenges of Kurtis Hamill and Kelsey Dugard, another of Martin's speedway-racing sons.
Third-generation speedway racer Braydan Galvin dominated his competition by winning all of his heats and the Youth 200cc Main Event in convincing fashion. Sebastian "Big Daddy" Palmese finished second, Dalton Leedy was third, and Chase Sanborn finished fourth.
Kennett and Martin Dugard, both competing under the Hagon Shocks banner, each shook off any lingering effects that both suffered from separate spectacular crashes the previous evening at Perris Raceway to make their debuts at IMS. Both racers were very fast and provided the fans with some entertaining racing. Both competitors gave positive reviews of the track and welcomed the idea of a possible return in the future.
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